Delaware’s mock Mummers Parade draws ire over float depicting migrant children in cages

A controversial entry in this year's Hummers Parade in Middletown, Del. depicts migrant children in cages at the U.S.-Mexico border. (John Mussoni/WHYY)

A controversial entry in this year's Hummers Parade in Middletown, Del. depicts migrant children in cages at the U.S.-Mexico border. (John Mussoni/WHYY)

Community activists angry over a float portraying migrant children in cages at the U.S.-Mexico border that were part of this year’s Hummers Parade in Middletown, Delaware are planning to rally outside the town council meeting Monday night.

Pictures of the floats from the annual New Year’s Day parade drew fierce backlash on social media users who described the images as “racist” and “heartless.” Some Delaware state lawmakers said the floats were “divisive, mean-spirited, and entirely counter to our state’s values.”

Since 1971, the haphazardly organized parade has offered a satirical take on the news of the previous year as a spoof of Philadelphia’s annual Mummers Parade. But this year, the event which often pushes the edge of what many spectators deem appropriate, crossed the line, according to activist and former U.S. Senate candidate in Delaware Kerri Evelyn Harris.

“While I know that this parade is prefaced on the fact that political satire of things that happened in the past, there’s certain content that crosses the line and actually becomes hazardous for the well-being of civil discourse,” said Harris, who is organizing Monday’s protest.

Images of the float show what appear to be two caged children, one wearing only soiled underwear, and another wearing a straw hat akin to a sombrero. Nearby, a woman wears a green jacket with white lettering on the back reading, “I DON’T REALLY CARE DO U?” — similar to the one worn by First Lady Melania Trump as she boarded a plane for a June 2018 trip to visit a shelter for immigrant children on the U.S.-Mexico border. A white handwritten sign on the float reads, “Border Detention Center.”

Harris hopes it will be a teachable moment, not necessarily for those responsible for the offensive floats, but for others who attend the parade, so they can feel more comfortable calling out something they find inappropriate.

“Make it clear what we don’t agree with, and make it clear why,” Harris said. “We need to make it clear as a state that that is not what we want … It has to be clear that overwhelmingly the state of Delaware is not standing behind this type of rhetoric.”

Harris said she respects the First Amendment rights of those in the parade and is not trying to stop them from marching. Rather she hopes to equip others with the tools to respond when they encounter something that has crossed the line.

Mike Wipf of New Castle joined his family in the parade portraying different aspects of the migrant caravan and building a border wall. One part of a picket fence in the display read, “Not Mexican, I’m Russian, let me in.”

In response to the criticism, Wipf told the Wilmington News Journal, “You always offend a couple of people, but nothing like what happened this year … If you don’t like it, don’t show up.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.